Many things happened on this quiet snowy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. My husband left for work, and my oldest son for college. My younger son was still sleeping, not yet starting his schedule of activities, and my daughter at an overnight. I had the choice today to start out and go to my first session, or wait until four o’clock, our scheduled time. I decided to start my day with the session. I went to the house of two autistic brothers. Upon arrival, I climbed the steps to their “room,” which is a fairly large empty one with three swings hanging from the ceiling. Being a Cape Cod home, the boys’ toys were in their labeled coves inside the rooftop. Today only one autistic brother joined me. However, a third sibling, typically blonde-haired, blue-eyed, happy, and three years old, joined us. I started the session with the Hello Song, as always. Each boy was asked to tap “hello” back to me on the drum. “Frankie”, the non-verbal autistic eldest brother, watched comfortably as his younger brother was included in this activity. As I started to play “Frankie’s” two-chorded song and sing about all he did (swing back and forth), I started to hear a very light, low sound now and then. As I listened, I realized it was “Frankie” humming. I met his eyes and began to sing about his singing. Just as I did, “Jay” the typical brother, got out his toy drum. He banged away and then quickly fell into “Frankie’s” and my groove. The three of us, drum, guitar, and hum, all played together in our own way to the same single pulse, sharing smiles and glances as we continued.
“Frankie” stopped his swing and switched positions. I was sitting on my ankle, which was beginning to hurt, so I stood up by the window cove in front of where “Frankie” was. Without being asked, “Jay” retrieved my various small instruments and brought them over. I had brought “Jay” a small guitar to play. He joined us on this guitar for a while. By this time, “Frankie” and I were humming together, sometimes hitting the same pitch, and sometimes hitting a fourth or a fifth apart. “Jay” picked up a harmonica and played along with us. When he put it down, I instructed him, “Now give “Frankie” a turn.” “Frankie”, still swinging, picked it up ad played a couple continuous phrases along with my guitar music. “Jay” then picked up my hand drum. I said in a sing-along voice, “My turn,” hit the drum, “now your turn,” which he did. “Now Frankie’s turn,” in which “Frankie” also participated. This rhythmic turn-taking, accompanied by guitar music, was interrupted only by “Jay’s” laughter as he proclaimed, “He did it!” (about his brother’s participation in the song.) “Frankie” and I continued the heart song of our voices to the accompanied beat of the rhythmic swing and the harmony of the guitar. When “Frankie” was done, he walked away and “Jay” helped me pack up the instruments.
What a great way to start a quiet, peaceful day. Yes, we had communicated some, but even better, we all played, sung, harmonized, and were energized and calmed together. Each of us shared what we have in our own way, all united to the monotonous back and forth pulse of the swing. I don’t know which was more rewarding, the delighted giggle of the youngest family member and spokesman, or the eldest sibling who grounded the small ensemble with his steady rhythm and sang with the other members with intent listening and joy. That is what I love about Music Therapy.
Antoinette Morrison MTBC
For more music advocacy please click here.
“He did It”! What a proud brother! You provided the opportunity for “Jay” to see, hear and feel “Frankie”s success, participation and communication, (and to enjoy his company). This is a wonderful example of family therapy. I agree. That is what I love about music therapy too. Thanks.